Tag Archives: Violence

Pray for Peace that Trumps Tribe in Kenya

Today, Kenyans are trooping to the ballot to vote for a new government and leaders. One of the greatest immediate fears is whether or not the post-election days will be peaceful. The memory of post-election violence in 2007 and 2008 is still fresh on our minds. Many remember these days as fading flashbacks of news items seen on television from the comfort of their peaceful neighborhoods. But for some of us, the memories are much more vivid—too vivid.

No one thought it would get this serious. We ignored the death threats after the election results were announced on that December evening in 2007. We thought we were safe. At least that's what I thought as I watched the violence erupt before my eyes, five years ago. When my mum received a phone call telling her that we needed to leave our home because it wasn't safe, I thought it was a joke. It wasn't. Within minutes, we left our house with nothing but the clothes on our backs. The next several days were some of our most helpless, as our home was broken into and looted of everything. Before I could wrap my mind around the chaos, I was an outcast in the only town I could call home.

Five years on, I can no longer call Eldoret my home. My little sister was practically born and raised there. All her precious childhood memories come from this town to which we can no longer return. In Kiambaa, a village on the outskirts of Eldoret, mobs from a rival tribe set a church on fire, killing 20 people who had taken refuge. Those who perished in this tin-roofed, mud-walled, and wooden-pewed structure were mostly children. And their crime was a genetic—they belonged to the wrong tribe. The ground once pinnacled by a cross symbolizing the death of Christ is now patterned by little crosses memorializing the death of children.

More Serious Union

But more than setting fires to churches and separating mothers from their children, the sword of negative tribalism severed an even more serious union—the church. In the Sundays following the violence, attendance in many churches dropped drastically. It wasn't just a numerical drop; certain tribes didn't show up any longer. The violence clarified the allegiances of many church members. And it was tribe, not Christ, which was decisive. This was by far the most devastating outcome of the election violence. Whenever chaos or wars break out in Africa, people usually take refuge in church buildings or mosques. These areas are not only considered sacred, but also neutral. It seems that the rule no longer applied this time. The force of negative tribalism was too compelling even for the church walls.

But is tribe too compelling for the transforming power of the gospel in Kenya? Many Christians were forced to re-examine their faiths. What did it really mean to be a Christian? Is allegiance to my tribe more important than allegiance to my local church? What role can the church play to ensure that 2013 will not resemble 2008? Are peace walks, peace placards, peace concerts, and peace conferences enough? Or is there more? Many Christians in Kenya view these election with a pensive mood. Church leaders have become unusually less vocal on their political views. But this does not bother me so much as the scarcity of the gospel message in many sermons about peace in many churches.

We sincerely plea for peace in the weeks following these elections. We may be divided on whom we want to be the next president, but we are united in echoing this prayer in our national anthem: "May we dwell in unity, peace, and liberty."

And we call on Christians from across the world to echo this prayer for peace. Pray for peace that is not just superficial or temporal, but a lasting peace that finds its root and foundation in the preaching of Jesus Christ crucified.

Don't Mess With Her, Man

Male leadership in the church and the home is designed by God to be characterized by tender strength, courageous protection, and self-giving devotion. Male authoritarianism is about neither. Indeed, it's a pathetic distortion that broadcasts a gospel lie (Eph. 5:32).

Today is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a fitting occasion to rehearse some of God's thoughts on the matter. As it turns out, he has quite a lot to say about (and to) the sort of men who would ever dare harm their brides. Consider just a sampling:

"Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them" (Col. 3:19).

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Pet. 3:7).

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self . . . proud, arrogant, abusive . . . heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people" (2 Tim. 3:1-5).

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. . . . Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

"Now the works of the flesh are evident . . . enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19-21).

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:29-32).

"Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'" (Rom. 12:17-19).

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up of her. . . . In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church" (Eph. 5:25, 28-29).

"[The] LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth" (Mal. 2:14-16).

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).

"[The LORD's] soul hates . . . the one who loves violence" (Ps. 11:5).

That last verse is particularly scary, isn't it? You'd think it would simply say God hates violence. Instead, it says God hates the violent. He hates wife-beaters.

No matter how it's spun, abusing women is unacceptable. Always. No asterisks.

God calls husbands to love their wives (Col. 3:19; Eph. 5:25, 33), to enjoy them (Eccl. 9:9), to understand them (1 Pet. 3:7), to honor them (1 Pet. 3:7), to nourish them (Eph. 5:29), to cherish them (Eph. 5:29), to provide for them (1 Tim. 5:8), to praise them (Prov. 31:28), and, well, you get the point.

Brothers, may the Lord deliver us from ever tolerating a pugnacious coward who would dare damage one of his beautiful image-bearers.